Boasting two championship fights on its ledger, UFC 216 resulted in about as memorable a night as we expected.
Beneil Dariush and Evan Dunham fought to a draw. Mara Romero Borella made a statement in her UFC debut. Fabricio Werdum made quick work against a last-minute opponent. Demetrious Johnson earned perhaps the most impressive submission in UFC history. Tony Ferguson became a champion — the interim kind.
FanRag Sports offers its report card for those who earned a raised hand on the UFC 216 main card. Grades are determined based on overall performance, method of victory and quality of opponent. We’ll also look at what should be next for the night’s biggest winners.
Beneil Dariush/Evan Dunham: C
A fairly entertaining introduction to the UFC 216 main card, Dariush vs. Dunham was all that anybody could hoped for: A pair of middle-of-the-pack lightweights who showcased both skill and heart for the better part of 15 minutes.
Dariush got off to a hot start Saturday, landing crisp counters and solid combinations. He dropped Dunham with a nasty elbow from over the top, dominating the rest of the opening round with slick transitions and powerful strikes from top position.
Dunham bounced back, though, partly because Dariush slowed his slowed approach. Dunham never had quite as dominant a round as Dariush did in the first, but did enough to convince two judges that he’d won the final two frames.
Draws aren’t overly popular in MMA, but it’s to hard to argue against this one. A fun scrap with a reasonable result, let’s try this again in the future.
FRS matchmaker: Beneil Dariush vs. Evan Dunham
Mara Romero Borella: A+
Well. It doesn’t get much more dominant than that.
Romero Borella made her UFC debut in Las Vegas, dispatching fellow promotional newcomer Kalindra Faria in the opening round. Securing an early takedown, Borella made her way into the full mount before securing the back. With the rear-naked choke there for the taking, Borella forced Faria to tap.
The MMA veteran is now riding a four-fight winning streak, and could become a staple of this new women’s division.
FRS matchmaker: Mara Romero Borella vs. Lauren Murphy
Fabricio Werdum: A+
Facing a last-minute opponent in Walt Harris, Werdum did as expected against an overmatched foe. Latching onto a single leg in the opening minute, Werdum took the fight to the ground before he imposed his otherworldly Brazilian jiujitsu skills. Harris did his best to scramble his way back to his feet, but left himself susceptible to a first-round armbar.
Werdum called for a championship rematch with Stipe Miocic — a pretty ridiculous request considering this is his first win in three tries. He’ll have to continue the climb up the ladder.
FRS matchmaker: Fabricio Werdum vs. Derrick Lewis
Demetrious Johnson: A+++++++++++
That’s 11 pluses for Johnson, who defended his championship for the 11th straight time — surpassing Anderson Silva for the all-time record of consecutive defenses inside the Octagon. Johnson was in a class of his own Saturday night, out-grappling a talented wrestler for the better part of 41/2 rounds before landing easily the most memorable finish of his UFC career.
Already clearly up four rounds against Ray Borg, Johnson secured his opponent’s back, threw him in the air with a suplex and sunk in an armbar … all before Borg hit the ground. It’s the sort of move that would make any movie less credible; there’s no way anybody should ever be able to do that, but Johnson did.
The last-minute submission added a much-needed exclamation point to a historic victory which demonstrated Johnson’s dominance. He’s one step closer to effectively cleaning out the division, and doesn’t look ready to slow down in the slightest.
FRS matchmaker: Demetrious Johnson vs. Henry Cejudo-Sergio Pettis winner
Tony Ferguson: B+
Having gone unnoticed for a majority of his professional career, Tony Ferguson was finally given a proper stage for his talents Saturday night. Headlining his first UFC pay-per-view event, Ferguson wrapped himself in promotional gold with an exciting win over a game opponent.
Ferguson faced Kevin Lee in Saturday’s headliner and struggled in the opening round, giving Lee supporters some hope. “El Cucuy” was loose to start the fight as expected, authoring his trademark unorthodox style to pepper Lee. The problem for Ferguson was that he didn’t do a very good job of getting his head out of the way for the counter and took a handful of stiff shots from Lee as well. Lee finished Round 1 in top position, with the bell preventing him from continuing his showers of elbows and punches.
That was about as much success as Lee had in the fight as he ran out of gas because of a staph infection on his chest (how that got past the Nevada State Athletic Commission I do not know). Ferguson didn’t take advantage of his exhausted opponent on his feet, but was comfortable giving up a takedown in Round 3 because he has confidence in his game from the bottom. Nearly securing an armbar off his back, Ferguson ended up earning this win with a triangle choke with Lee in top position.
We know what fight should be next for Ferguson: A championship unification with Conor McGregor.
Unfortunately for Ferguson, he’ll have to wait and see what the Irishman decides before he can determine a future of his own.
FRS matchmaker: Tony Ferguson vs. TBD